what makes a good chili?
- Steph P
I'm throwing a gathering with only two dishes, one of which is chili.
So, i'm tossing it out there --- what makes a phenomenal chili?
danke in advance,
The rhapsody that can be chili. I just made a pot last night. If what follows seems to your taste I'll email the recipe in full. I make TEXAS chili. That is: chiles and beef(and, for some a sacriledge, beans). Chili is not about stock, it's not about water, its not even about great meat. Chili is the essence of good chili powders heated until aromatic with bacon, onion, and a bit of tomato paste(some would even argue with the addition of ANY tomato).
Chili is the addition of well-browned chuck cubes and their juice to the pseudo-roux. Chili is long-simmered. Chili is lime-blessed, sour-cream-enrobed, fiery-sword-of-jalapeno-wielding god.
I'll second all that Malcarne posted and just add the following hints:
- You can get excellent cumin seeds at Indian markets at a fraction of what you pay in the supermarket. If you grind your own cumin it makes a world of difference. I use a coffee grinder dedicated for spices.
- Lately I've gotten a bit retentive about my powders and make my own. I buy pods at my local bodega, dry them out on a rack in the oven overnight with the pilot only, remove the stems and seeds, grind and sift. Yeah, it is a lot of work, but at least you know that you're getting 100% pod flesh. If you have a good NewMex source and can get Chimayo reasonably fresh then by all means skip that step but it's a good technique to know if you get in a jam. (I started doing it when I couldn't find any Pasilla powder but could get the pods easily.)
That was just a chili manifesto :). I agree with most of what's been posted. Cumin, yes. Good chile powders(It's a hassel to grind your own, but sometimes I'm in the mood). Thankfully, you can find various pure chili powders in reputable spice markets like Penzey's or The Spice House(or some supermercados, for that matter). I haven't done the chocolate thing. It seems too close to mole for me, but I'll probably try it after all the recommendations.
I DO add mexican oregano, whole garlic cloves, pre-salted/peppered/seared chuck cubes, a bit of paprika(sometimes), enough cayenne for flavor and moderate heat(I slice in the jalapenos/serranos per my bowl...others can't stand the heat).
I tend to use light red kidney beans, but I've tried just about every bean except garbanzos(too foofy for chili) over the years.
A little masa harina rounds out the sometime sharpness of the chilis. I don't use masa as a thickening agent. After long-simmering the chili should be thick enough on its own. During the simmering process continually check the pot and add water, beer, tequila, etc. to keep the beef at a nice braise(not completely submerged/not drying out). Beans and masa go in last, of course.
Top with lime juice, hot peppers(sometimes canned are good with their vinegar/pickling juice), cilantro, freshly-grated sharp cheddar cheese, sour cream, salty tortilla chips OR just enjoy it straight.
Beware: A good chili makes a monster stain.
A couple of things that slipped my mind: after searing brown on at least one side the beef cubes and removing to a bowl saute' one whole, diced onion(white or sweet) in/over the fond and, hopefully little, remaining CANOLA oil. The onions will sweat and loosen the fond(so any liquids added later are for flavor NOT for loosening the fond...that's my method...of course there are others who prefer to deglaze the traditional way). Once the onions are translucent I drop in a few whole, smashed garlic cloves.
I then dump in my spices. I warm them as they become a paste. Then I add a dollop of tomato paste and do the same. In goes the chuck and juices. Canned tomato sauce (small can)or water IF needed or wanted. Beer, tequila can follow. Then simmer for 2-3 hours or longer.
As for smokiness: I'm not always in the mood for it BUT
a slice or two of bacon saute'd and removed might be added before the beef. Or, more often, I add a little
chipotle in adobo(accent on a "little") to the warming, aromatic spice/tomato paste.
Excellent quality, fresh-as-possible, ground New Mexico chiles .. preferably from Chimayo ... not "chile powder".
And the addition of some canned chipotle in adobo ... for a big pot I usually add 2 or 3, finely chopped, plus some of the adobo sauce. A bit of apple cider vinegar too, just a dribble.
Ground Cumin is an essential spice, especially if you're not using chili powder.
I've been making the same chili recipe for years, and I never tire of it. But it took several recipes and variations to really nail it down. Start with a basic recipe, and experiment freely -- you can never have enough chili cookouts...